Abuja, Nigeria – Health authorities in Nigeria are gathering efforts to detect and contain the new virus after Africa’s most populous country confirmed its first case, calling on citizens to avoid panicking or spreading unverified information about the disease.
As on Thursday, an Italian citizen working in Nigeria tested positive for the virus after falling ill following his arrival in the commercial hub of Lagos from Milan in northern Italy, an area that has emerged as Europe’s coronavirus hotspot.
According to health officials,,The man, who has since been isolated at the hospital at Yaba, is “clinically stable” and has not developed serious symptoms, According to health officials.
“We have already started working to identify all the contacts of the patient since he entered Nigeria,” Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s health minister, told reporters in the capital, Abuja. “We have continued to beef our own security. The level of preparedness continues to improve of Nigeria every day.“
However, the Public health professionals who spoke to Al Jazeera expressed confidence in the West African country’s ability to contain the spread of the virus. They point to key lessons from its successful response to an Ebola outbreak more than five years ago, as well as a series of measures already put in place before the arrival of the coronavirus.
In addition, with the heightening screening at points of entry, particularly at airports, authorities have established testing capacity in four laboratories and expanded surveillance to follow up with travelers from countries affected by the infectious disease – officially known as COVID-19 – within 14 days of arriving in Nigeria.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has also supported the activation of emergency operation centers to serve as coordination platforms, while its Coronavirus Preparedness Group meets daily to screen the situation and manage the response efforts.
Meanwhile,the agency has issued a public health advisory to inform Nigerians about symptoms and preventive measures, and has provided a toll-free number for guidance.
A public health practitioner and epidemiologist,May Ubeku, said Nigerian health authorities were “fully prepared” to contain the spread of the coronavirus, citing the series of measures introduced since January.
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First case in sub-Saharan African
As a matter of fact, Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa’s first country to register a case of the virus, which has killed some 2,900 people and infected more than 86,000 worldwide, the vast majority in China where it all began late last year.
Medical experts had long expected the arrival of the deadly virus in sub-Saharan Africa, pointing to the deep trade and travel ties between China and a number of countries on the continent.
In mid-February, health ministers of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)meets in Mali’s capital, Bamako, to develop a regional preparedness plan and boost cross-border collaboration to increase rapid diagnosis and containment.
However, Parts of West Africa already share a painful experience of trying to tackle the major Ebola outbreak that destroyed the region between 2013 and 2016 and killed more than 11,000 people.
In Nigeria, Ebola was first detected in July 2014 which was brought by an infected Liberian man at the Lagos international airport. When he finally died in hospital He set off a chain of transmission that killed seven people out of a total of 19 infections. But months later, the country was declared Ebola-free, with the World Health Organization (WHO) hailing a “spectacular success story” and plausible authorities for their “effective coordination of the response”.
‘Nigeria will deal with it’
Ifeanyi Nsofor, who graduated from Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity programme at George Washington University in 2019, cited Nigeria’s experience in stamping out Ebola, as well as polio, as promising signs in the fight to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
In August last year, Nigeria went three years without a case of wild poliovirus and is due to receive a wild polio-free status in June 2020 – a gigantic shift from 2012 when it accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide.
The country assumed various measures to achieve this milestone, notably establishing emergency operations centres to respond to polio outbreaks and enhancing collaboration among health agencies and international partners. It also conducted a large-scale polio vaccination campaign that involved volunteers, community groups and religious and traditional institutions amid efforts to raise awareness.
Nsofor said that, “The structures are still in place,adding that Nigeria can count on the “massive” network of health workers who were deployed to tackle polio and Ebola.
An Abuja-based public health consultancy, Nsofor, CEO of EpiAFRIC, expressed concern that much of the coronavirus containment effort seems to be concentrated on airports in big cities.
He explained that “Our weakest link is our land borders, [which] are porous,”And he keep on urging health authorities to intensify surveillance.
Also Read; First Case Of The CORONA-VIRUS (COVID-19) in Nigeria
It was confirmed that the first case of COVID-19 comes at a time when Nigeria is still battling an outbreak of Lassa fever, which has caused 118 deaths since the beginning of the year.
Lassa fever is endemic in Nigeria and some parts of West Africa and is predominantly transmitted via food or household items contaminated by rodent urine or faeces.
Ukam Edadi, programme coordinator of Lagos-based Citizens Health Initiative Nigeria, a group campaigning for citizens’ right to accessible and quality healthcare, called for continuous training of the health workforce involved in tackling epidemics alongside an “aggressive and intensive health education on respiratory hygiene in the media, schools, hospitals, churches and mosques” to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the arrival of coronavirus in Lagos, an overcrowded megacity of some 20 million people, has ignited fears among residents amid reports of people scrambling to buy hygiene products. On Saturday, two locals told Al Jazeera that they visited pharmacies and stores but did not find any protective masks and hand sanitisers to buy.
“People are scared, people are panicking but the most important thing that people will do is to get appropriate and credible information” from credible organisations and authorities such as the NCDC, the health ministry and the WHO, explained Nsofor.
However, Health officials and public health professionals have also expressed concerns that online platforms could trigger the rise of myths and misinformation about the disease.
In addition, Nigeria’s health ministry said in a statement earlier this week, “Citizens must not abuse social media and indulge in spreading misinformation that causes fear and panic,”
As Compiled By Cyndi Wyndi
And Edited By Knight Fredel
All rights reserved,
WONDER PLANET NEWSPAPER (c) 2020